Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director-General, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman, has lamented that Nigerians expressing joy over government officials affected by Coronavirus pandemic is a confirmation of loss of humanity in the country.
Writing on the topic ‘Nigeria and Covid-19 Challenges: Public Policy Choices’, Lukman argued that the level of despondent by Nigerians against their leaders has become a threat to the challenges posed by Covid-19.
He insisted that one of the biggest takeaways of the COVID-19 pandemic is that public policy trust in the country since early 1980s has discouraged public expenditure in health and education.
According to him; “Given how disappointed we are with our leaders, and against the background of Covid-19 world pandemic, how can we be positive? What does positivity even mean? Could it suggest being uncritical and supportive of everything our leaders do?
“Individuals would have different views about what being positive should mean, which could be blinded by our deep-seated anger against our leaders. Unfortunately, our leaders have also developed a corresponding mindset that almost equate every critical opinion as hostile.
“As a result, we are witnessing expressions of joy when our leaders are infected by Covid-19 virus. And our leaders are also not open to public suggestions and recommendations. It is virtually a case of establishing a negative equilibrium, which negate all possible engagements between our leaders and citizens on how best to respond to the policy challenge that Covid-19 posed to the nation.
“All these only exposes the sad reality that as a people we have lost our humanity. Once our humanity is lost, our capacity to respond to challenges such as the one posed by Covid-19 can only be weak. Chances are that we will be responding to citizens infected by the virus almost as if they are the virus such that could mean stigmatising the patient.
“It does not matter what the relationship is. Our angry mode against each other will continue to take away the best of our human side. Issues of developing our healthcare services to be able to respond to the challenges are at best reduced to evaluating governmental actions or lack of it,” he noted.
Reacting further to the pandemic, the PGF DG said: “In this trying time, there are hard facts that we must come to terms with. As Nigerians, since the mid 1980s, our public policy thrust discourages public expenditure in health and education. In some ways, Covid-19 pandemic is confronting us with the opportunity to revisit our public policy thrust.
“Whether we will be able to respond to this challenge positively depends on our ability to engage our leaders and through such engagements strengthen their capacity to courageously act for higher public investments in health and educational sectors.
“It is also about whether our leaders are disposed to public recommendations. In other words, are we ready as a nation to produce new policy equilibrium for the country?
“Arguably, one of the big lessons Covid-19 is bringing to us is that our health and safety can only be guaranteed with good public investment in the health sector.
“It is true that our leaders have disappointed us over the years. It is also true that our leaders have, with hardly any exception, piloted the affairs of our country with submissive compliance to the philosophy that discourages public investment in health and educational sectors, at least since the mid 1980s.
“Most cases of public investments in these sectors prioritises constructions of hospitals and schools or classrooms. In very rare instances, the limited investments cover provisions of medical equipment. Investments in development of healthcare personnel, medicine, research, teachers, books, etc. are hardly considered
“Certainly, more than anything, Covid-19 has brought us to that day of grandiose generalisation on a global scale, which is daily questioning the effectiveness of investments in our health and educational sectors. Nations are responding to these challenges as a matter of emergency without the luxury of ideological preferences dominating governments’ initiatives to national budgets and balance of payments implications. Old ideological barriers around disincentive to welfare spending are hardly the focus. Of course, some old ideological factors are gaining ground on a global scale such as wage cuts, etc.
“With the enormity of the threat Covid-19 has posed to humanity across the world, instinctively, all attention is about what to do to save humanity, at least in virtually every country. Non-governmental initiatives are springing up across the world to support governmental initiatives. Organised Private Sector, civil society, faith-based organisations, trade unions and all other voluntary associations are mobilising resources to support governments to tackle the threat of Covid-19 in virtually every country. Sadly, this cannot be said to be the case in Nigeria,” the DG noted.